The banquettes and a range of other ornate woodcarvings and furnishings were originally created for the Durbar Hall at the 1886 Colonial & Indian Exhibition, held in South Kensington.

These items were then purchased and moved to the Park Lane mansion of Lord and Lady Brassey, who bequeathed the items to the museum following their deaths in 1919.

Now one of a very few examples in the UK, the banquettes have fallen into disrepair and require urgent attention from a specialist.

The seating was upholstered in panels of silk and richly embroidered with metallic threads – material originally made for the 32nd Sultan of the Ottoman Empire – after their acquisition, making the task of restoration trickier than with many aged fabrics.

M+H Summer Series – News
© John Fox

“Sadly the banquettes require very specialist work that is beyond the budgets that the museum has available,” explains Cllr Paul Barnett, Hastings Borough Council’s lead for regeneration.

“The remaining original material is now in a very poor condition and action is needed to repair them, so they can be appreciated by visitors and locals for many years to come. We have never tried to crowdfund before, so this is a new adventure for us. We hope you will join us and help preserve this fantastic piece of history by donating or sharing the project widely with your friends, family and colleagues.”

Quid pro quo

As is customary with crowdfunding campaigns, rewards are offered to donors depending on the amount pledged. Hastings Museum & Art Gallery is offering the following gifts as part of the Brassey’s Brilliant Banquettes fundraiser:

  • £20 or more – 10% off in the museum’s shop until December 2021
  • £50 or more – Ticket to an exclusive two-hour conservation seminar
  • £75 or more – Object Handling Session
  • £500 or more – Curator Days Business package

The main funding target has been set at £18,000, which will enable the institution to enlist the help of a textile conservator. Should any money be raised above this figure, the organisation says it will channel this into a research bursary to support a study of the upholstery’s past as well as the delivery of associated public programming.


More information on the Brassey’s Brilliant Banquettes campaign is available here.

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